Can religion and social media work together? One religious conference ponders this question.
The Doha International Centre for Interfaith Dialogue was established by an Emiri Decision in 2007. According to the State of Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Doha International Center for Interfaith Dialogue aims to: “1. Consolidate the culture of coexistence and acceptance of others.
2. Utilize religious values in dealing with the causes and problems of humanity.
3. Expand the scope of dialogue to cover life aspects interrelated with religion.
4. Expand the circle of dialogue to include researchers, academia and the persons concerned with the relations between religious values and life issues.
5. Provide factual and instructional information in its fields of specialty.”
One of the ways that the Centre aims to do this is through an annual conference. At this year’s conference there are scholars and religious leaders from 41 countries, representing Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. One of the focuses of the conference has been on how to use social media to promote discussion and dialogue between different religious groups. However, according to the head of the Doha International Centre for Interfaith Dialogue, Ebrahim Saleh Al Naimi, leaders and organizations should be careful how they use social media: “”Social media has both negative and positive aspects.” He added: “”Society today needs to focus on the positive aspects and strengthen them, and minimize the impact of other aspects. The negative aspects are capable of spreading hatred and racism, which is prevalent in some countries.”
So, how can leaders and organizations take steps to help avoid this? One suggestion from the conference is to create a global code of conduct on ways to use social networking sites from a religious perspective.
It is a difficult issue, one which has yet to be tackled in a mainstream way; however, the conference is a concrete and important step in creating and continuing inter-faith dialogue in the social media era. As Qatar’s justice minister Hassan Bin Abdullah Al Ghanem, notes, “The dialogue among the followers of divine religions is practical and real. It aims at coexistence of the mankind living in the spirit of dignity, equality, peace and security.”